Hurricane María has turned the entire island of Puerto Rico into a disaster zone, leaving residents with virtually no power or means of communicating with the outside world. Now, according to the National Guard, Puerto Rico faces a more immediate danger: the Guajataca Dam in the northwestern corner of the island, badly damaged by the hurricane’s heavy rains, is on the verge of collapsing.
Many living in areas downstream have already evacuated, fearing a life-threatening deluge should the dam fail to hold.
On Saturday, Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló warned that up to 70,000 people could be in danger if the dam failed, and he urged residents to evacuate and stay away. On Monday,
On Monday, Governor Rosselló told CNN, “This is a game changer,” and urged Congress to approve an appropriate aid package to the US territory, adding, “We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America” caused by a massive exodus to the mainland.
Hurricane Maria has left many of the island’s residents without shelter, food and other basic supplies while heavy rains, severe flooding, and loss of all electricity, has crippled the island’s medical facilities and slowed rescue efforts and intensified suffering during a heat wave.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats in calling for immediate and significant assistance to Puerto Rico’s residents, 3 million of whom are American citizens.
President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens. https://t.co/J2FVg4II0n
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 24, 2017
“It’s a terrible immediate situation that requires assistance from the federal government - not just financial assistance,” said Cuomo during a tour of the island.
Hundreds of thousands of people on the U.S. mainland have been waiting to hear from family and friends living on the island, but many on Monday were saying they still had had “zero communication” with people on the island, reports Danica Coto for the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, some island residents on Monday were expressing anger over the lack of information from cellphone providers about which cell towers are still working.
“I’m absolutely numb at this point. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion,” Shirley Rodriguez, who lives in Brooklyn and has more than 30 relatives in Puerto Rico, including her 66-year-old mother, told Associated Press. “Not knowing is extremely agonizing.”
Only about 25 percent of towers appear to be working in the San Juan metro area. T-Mobile reached a deal with other providers to help reconnect customers and recommended callers use the roaming data option to find a connection, adding that customers will not be charged extra.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 25, 2017
Hurricane Maria, which weakened considerably over the weekend to a minor Category 1 hurricane, is currently heading for the North Carolina coast.